Mumbai: They were the fabled Dirty Harrys of Mumbai Police, collectively responsible for finishing off the much thriving underworld in the city.
Police officers like Daya Nayak, Pradeep Sharma, Vijay Salaskar, Praful Bhosale and Ravindra Angre sent shivers down the spines of Mumbai's underworld. Each of these men boasts of more than 80 encounters apiece.
Encounter killings started in the 1980's, gained momentum in the 90's and peaked in the 2000's under former Mumbai Police Commissioner MN Singh.
"If you are attacked, if you are in danger from a criminal, don't look here and there or wait. Just hit back," Singh had told his officers.
Between 1999 and 2002, over 250 'dreaded' gangsters were gunned down in I encounter killings in Mumbai.
Those gunned down included three aides of Abu Salem, who had threatened Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Salman Khan and Lawrence D'Souza.
The encounters killings almost finished of the operations of Chhota Rajan and Chhota Shakeel from Mumbai.
For the gunmen of Mumbai Police, it was easy to play by the bullet and bypass the legal system.
But two wrongs don't make a right and the police were soon turning into gangsters in uniform.
Most of the encounter specialists have either been sidelined or suspended.
Having enjoyed unlimited power, they are now out of favour mostly through their own doing.
Daya Nayak was accused of involvement with the underworld and moved out of the Crime Branch. He is currently under suspension.
Pradeep Sharma, too, was moved out of Crime Branch and now is with the Control Room of the Mumbai Police.
Another encounter specialist Sachin Waze was suspended in connection with the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case and subsequently quit. Praful Bhosale was also suspended in the same case while Ravindra Angre is currently in police custody related to a property case.
Only Vijay Salaskar has earned some redemption and is part of the Crime Branch once again.
But even though these trigger-happy cops may be down but they're not out. It will need the whole system to change before encounters become history.